Will HBO Go Be The Straw That Breaks The Camel’s Back? Please?!


HBO Go

Apparently Apple is in negotiations with HBO to provide their HBO Go mobile app which

allows on-demand streaming of their shows to the AppleTV platform without having to pay for the HBO channel from a traditional cable or IPTV provider like Comcast or AT&T.

The service presumably will not be for free and one will have to pay a ‘micro subscription’ using the Apple iTunes store for the service. This would be just fine with me – the start of the ala carte model I’ve been craving for years.

Hey media provider: Quit subsidizing crazy small channels with ridiculous reality-tv programming and let the content stand on its own! If you provide me with quality programming that I’m interested in I’ll buy it! I might even end up spending just as much with you as I already do, as long as I feel I’m getting value for my money.

Someone is going to finally do this and when they do it will be a revelation – I want to be able to buy a subscription to a certain channel perhaps but even more I want the ability to have access to certain individual PROGRAMS that I can watch on demand immediately as soon as they are available in traditional broadcast. This includes sporting events and special events like the Grammy’s.

I want the ability as well to 1) own the content forever and redownload/stream on demand or 2) to have the content cost less but expire after a certain time or 3) be able to subscribe to older content made available in bulk on demand (the Netflix model).

Please let HBO finally give Apple an opportunity to break into this model and provide me with the programming that works best for us as individuals!

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Red Hot Opportunities for Communications Providers in 2013

As we look back on 2012 and forward to 2013 there are a few key opportunities that are becoming front and center for communications service providers (CSP) in the coming year and beyond. CSPs of course are still struggling with OTP (Over the Top) solutions as well as consolidation and price competition from innovative players like Free in France. But there is also significant opportunity.

 

NaaS (the Network as a Service). First and foremost the most valuable asset that a provider has beside the mountain of customer data (big data anyone?) is the network itself. CSPs should be looking to unlock their network with lightweight services that can be offered easily and simply to a wide customer base. With the proliferation of software ‘app stores’ independent as well as large developers have created a massive demand for mobile, location and network related activities to make their software work better. Companies like AT&T have already begun to do this with their Network API developer network. The untapped revenue opportunity for an already sunk cost for CSPs is huge in this area and the advent of mobile lightweight devices and cloud-based solutions is making NaaS red hot in 2013.

 

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). CSPs are knows as communications and telephone companies. They also have a large amount of experience in managing and deploying mobile devices on a massive scale. I was at MobileCON this past Fall and BYOD was THE topic of choice for companies out there looking to manage a huge influx of devices from their employees. IBM is now managing over 100,000 BYOD devices for its own employees. However, most companies haven’t got a clue as to how to manage their BYOD problem. This is where the CSP can help. CSPs have a great opportunity to provide this level of service to corporations, universities, school systems and governments. BYOD is coming and will be red hot in 2013.

 

Social, Mobile & Personal. For years CSPs have talked about the 360 degree view of the customer and enhanced customer experience but most of them haven’t been able to achieve either one with consistency. CSPs need to start embracing their customers where their customers live – which is increasingly on mobile devices in complex social environments. While social commerce is still struggling to get out of the gate, there is evidence its influence is growing and it will increase throughout the year. Mobile commerce is booming and customer self-service capabilities are becoming table-stakes for CSPs and the ability to support personalized and directed offers for customers is critical for success in the new marketplace. This cannot be accomplished without a focus on customer insight and campaign management capabilities within the organization. Social, Mobile & Personal engagement with customers is going to be red hot in 2013.

 

There are certainly plenty of other opportunities for CSPs in 2013 but addressing any of the three listed here could be a significant impact to the bottom line in 2013.

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Mobile: The Tip of the Spear for Electronic Commerce

I was speaking at MobileCON 2012 in San Diego a week ago and it was amazing how many people were talking about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and how prevalent smartphones have become.

Palm VIIMy first wireless device was the Palm VII in 2001 and while it was very cutting edge for the time, using it to perform more than basic functions like reading e-mail or news updates was arduous. I did it because it was ‘cool’ and I didn’t mind spending three times as long to do something like order movie tickets than it would take through traditional methods. My wife, however, would never think of paying a premium for technology just for the sake of being cool in a nerdy sort of way and that’s what ‘smartphones’ were up until 2007.

When Apple released the original iPhone all that changed. All of the sudden the use of a ‘smartphone’ was so easy and so intuitive that it’s use no longer slowed us but now made us more efficient. The massive adoption of iOS, Android and Windows Mobile devices has finally given rise to the possibility of real-time personalized, location-based marketing and commerce experiences because we have become fully committed to our mobile phones.

Today we are so intrinsically tied to our mobile devices and we are loathe to part with them. There are over a billion smartphones in use today and 84% of us say we couldn’t go a single day without our smartphone. 65% of us would rather leave our lunch at home versus our smartphone and half of us would rather leave our (real) wallet at home instead of our smartphone.

Mobiles have truly become a part of us and retailers and marketers needs to take advantage of that in new and innovative ways. New approaches to making the shopping experience easier and providing more suitable offers for the consumer; ways that increase their efficiency and make their lives simpler.

Augmented Reality for In-Store OffersIdeas like geo-fencing like BestBuy to provide real-time contextual offers to customers who are in the proximity of a location at a certain time. Or providing the ability to create shopping lists online at the desktop or mobile and then being directed through in-store mapping to efficiently pick up those items. Or going beyond bar code scanning to ARISTO (augmented reality for in-store offers) like Wal-Mart providing real-time product updates and pricing in a visual manner within the store.

How about gathering sentiment and consumer data directly from your customers, their tendencies and habits as well as their opinions and choices? A plan for big data and real-time  analytics to gather insight about the customer helps deliver more precise offers that have more meaning and are more likely to be accepted.

How is your company using the mobile devices of your customers as the ‘tip of the spear’ for your personalized commerce initiatives?

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Synchronizing CPE in the Supply Chain (Part 3)

Ok, so we’ve talked about what it takes to synchronize the supply chain and bring back or retain the ‘value’ components of the supply chain within the communication service provider instead of giving it to fulfillment partners. In this final installment we’ll talk about what it takes to go the last mile and take ALL the value out of the extended supply chain.

Extending Supply Chain Synchronization Even Further
Even after the CSP’s fulfillment partner(s) are integrated into the synchronized supply chain and are interacting directly with order management system, receiving fulfillment direction, providing enterprise-wide inventory visibility and managing returns they still retain some ‘valuable’ pieces of the supply chain. They still own and control the software used to manage the pick, pack and ship operations within the outsourced warehouse facilities used to fulfill the CSPs orders.

By taking the next step and deploying a supply collaboration capability and a centralized network warehouse management system (nWMS) with associated operating procedures and facility processes that are streamlined to the business needs, the CSP becomes empowered to finally commoditize the entire last mile of the supply chain. By pushing inventory visibility out to the manufacturers and distributors (instead of relying on the 3PL to purchase on behalf of the CSP) and pushing the radio frequency (RF), RFID or light web client nWMS interfaces out into the 3PL partners, true multi-sourcing can take place and the same service level can be measured and expected across all supply chain network partners using the same methodologies and systems mandated by the communications provider.

A centralized supply collaboration solution helps organizations effectively manage the extended purchase order lifecycle, including all interactions with external parties.

It provides both internal and external users with immediate access to purchase/planned orders, allowing them to negotiate changes over the Internet; redirect orders and inventory; and resolve unexpected problems or delays. It further provides real-time visibility into all aspects of the inbound supply chain, resulting in improved communication with suppliers; lower processing costs, faster response rates on exceptions and ultimately, increased performance of their supply chain. Supply collaboration even offers the ability to promise goods that are inbound or still residing at the manufacturer’s facility. Since the complete CPE inventory life-cycle is visible selling against that inventory can happen anywhere in the supply chain based on business rules and conditions.

Key Capabilities:

  • Central PO repository – Aggregate and manage purchase orders from multiple internal systems and divisions.
  • Collaborative execution – Collaborate, negotiate and confirm order plans, shipments and notifications with suppliers via the Internet.
  • Supplier Compliance – Enforce corporate and industry standards for supplier compliance, reporting, label printing and document formats.
  • Flexible control of purchase order processes – Flexibly define metrics, track, and manage each supplier relationship according to business goals.
  • Proactive Exception Management – Respond immediately to unplanned events or potential issues throughout the purchase order execution lifecycle.
  • Analytics – Provide reporting and analytics infrastructure for defining, tracking and managing to metrics.

Business Benefits:

  • Increased Revenue – Top-line revenues can be improved through enhanced customer service by reducing stock-out risks. Improved responsiveness to customer needs by reducing order cycle times can be achieved and you can effectively up-sell / cross-sell with a solid fulfillment backbone.
  • Reduce Costs – Overall operational costs can be reduced by eliminating manual purchase order processing costs, through reduced fulfillment and inventory handling costs and by reducing labor costs with collaboration and exception-based management.
  • Reduced Working Capital – Achieved through reduced inventory levels by better balancing / synchronizing inventory across internal locations and trading partners. Monitors and alerts help to avoid and rapidly resolve problems (shortages, delays, etc.) Reduce material costs by leveraging more aggregated buyer data and reduced cycle times via collaboration.
  • Leverage Fixed Assets: Better utilization of logistics and warehousing infrastructure.

A networked WMS provides a central point of control over complex warehouse operations, across multiple facilities of varying types. With its service-oriented architecture and process-centric modeling capabilities, nWMS can be leveraged across all types of situations, from the largest facilities to the smallest stocking locations. It includes robust planning, execution and measurement tools for distribution managers, bringing operational discipline to the complex warehouse operations. The networked warehouse management system is process centric, notifying other systems or locations of critical events that occur within the network and make fulfillment decisions based on real-time information received from customers, partners and suppliers. Built to handle the most complex fulfillment requirements, it improves internal efficiencies through business rules-driven warehouse management.

Key Capabilities

  • Planning, Execution & Measurement Tools – Use powerful task planning, management and monitoring tools to improve asset utilization.
  • Business Rules-Based Operations – Leverage a full suite of business rules designed for high-volume environments.
  • Real-Time Operational Views – Make immediate operational improvements using “dash board” views of real-time warehouse activity.
  • Value-Added Services – Automate a wide variety of value-added services such as kitting, postponed manufacturing, packing and labeling.
  • Ability to bring up and down warehouses quickly and from a central location.

Business Benefits

  • Reduce Warehouse Operating Costs – Drive down labor and transportation costs by automating complex tasks and improving operational decisions.
  • Improve Asset Utilization – Maximize the productivity of manpower, equipment and space using planning and execution tools.
  • Improve Inventory Control – Gain tighter control over inventory and its movement, leading to reduced inventory levels and handling costs.
  • Increase Customer Satisfaction – Reduce order cycle times and improve fulfillment accuracy through enhanced control of warehouse operations

Regardless of how far an organization decides to go with it’s supply chain synchronization, it’s critical that they begin the process of taking back the ‘value’ of their supply chain if they expect to be able to provider exceptional service to today’s empowered customer.

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Synchronizing CPE in the Supply Chain (Part 2)

In the last blog we talked about the evolution many organizations take as they approach the physical supply chain of their organization and identified the benefit of bringing the ‘value’ components of the supply chain back into the organization. This time we’ll look at how to begin that process and some of the benefits we might expect.

How Is The Hybrid Phase Achieved?
By bringing ALL the valuable business logic, sourcing, fallout, and billing event information back within the four walls of the organization, Any CSP can maximize the value of outsourcing partners by rendering them a commodity service provider measured on price and SLA criteria. Since all of the ‘value’ has been removed from the outsourced end of the supply chain, a multitude of 3PL or other supply chain providers can be measured equally on their ability to deliver goods accurately and on time for the lowest price possible.

Supply Chain Synchronization
Execution of the final phase in supply chain evolution involves ‘synchronizing the supply chain’ and bringing value back inside the four walls of the organization by controlling the software solutions directing and ultimately being utilized by the commodity components of the supply chain. By allowing 3PLs to retain order and warehouse management components they are also allowed to retain ‘value’ and increase the dependency upon them.

In order to completely own the supply chain value, the CSP should begin ‘synchronizing’ its technology solutions into the supply chain environments. By deploying a net-centric distributed order and eventually, warehouse management solution, a service provider is empowered with complete inventory visibility across multiple 3PL partners, resellers, vendors, distributors and partners anywhere on the globe and reduction of the huge on-hand inventory quantities with just-in-time inventory planning (many CSPs still currently ‘rent’ up to $20MM in capital from a 3PL partner to purchase inventory that the CSP is ultimately responsible for – there is no risk to the partner. The CSP also pays good interest rates to the 3PL for this service) that allows drastic reductions in capital held hostage with 3PL partners because actual inventory numbers are not known, the 3PL partners are not efficient enough and therefore accurate forecasting cannot be planned.

The ability to multi-source fulfillment that this model provides has many other benefits as well:

  • No longer dependent upon a single point of failure in the supply chain – multiple sources for fulfillment mean less downtime and backlogs to customers
  • Allows organization to push down requirements to it’s suppliers / partners and eliminate those partners that cannot meet organizational standards (Wal-Mart continues to be the leading example of this methodology today)
  • Receive ‘commodity’ services from 3PL and carrier partners such as backorder, shipment and delivery notification allowing the organization to make operational decisions based upon that data
  • Ability to control the software and associated operating procedures used by supply chain partners thus driving up efficiency and driving down cost to an even higher degree.

Own the Value, Own the Customer, Control Your Destiny
Many communications providers have become dependent on a single CPE outsource solution provider by allowing the control of their customer data and billing events; value components, to be located within their partner’s systems.

Most eventually come to realize that they have essentially become a multi-channel retailer and part of that delivery is dynamically managing visibility and fulfillment of CPE goods across multiple fulfillment partners and organizations that are geographically and systemically diverse.

Inventory synchronization solutions captures, aggregates, and provides visibility to inventory quantities at all locations in a supply network- internal and external.

They provides visibility to and control over all inventories in the network, including in-transit inventory. They increase inventory turnover and supply chain flexibility through global visibility and synchronization of supply. With both overall and granular inventory visibility, an order hub strategy with inventory synchronization powers real-time global ATP, and facilitates accurate, rules-based order fulfillment while synchronizing, and monitoring all inventory levels and movements to ensure identification and resolution of  exceptions and anticipation of potential problems. It enables companies to accurately fulfill customer orders while optimizing inventory levels across their business.

Key Capabilities

  • Global, Multi-Site Visibility – View inventory at all network locations – whether owned or partners, etc.
  • Real-time Available-to-Promise – Provide accurate, global inventory availability in real-time through any order capture or customer interaction environment.
  • Network Inventory Monitoring – Gain visibility of all supply and demand across variable time horizons. Monitor net availability positions and establish re-order points and manage back-orders.
  • Network Inventory Updates – Receive and update inventory snapshots from individual locations and/or individual adjustments as they occur.
  • Flexible Segmentation of Inventory – Easily configure inventory categories and flexibly model your distribution environment.
  • Inventory Reservation – Manage inventory against user-defined segments and reserve inventory against quotes or draft orders to ensure commitment.
  • Supply Chain Event Management – Flexibly manage exceptions in inventory levels, movements and late receipts; and proactively resolve problems.
  • Analytics – Provide reporting and analytics infrastructure for defining, tracking and managing to metrics.

Business Benefits

  • Reduce Inventory Levels – Eliminate redundant inventory and improve allocation predictability with global visibility and rules-based sourcing.
  • Reduce stock-outs and overstocks – Manage customer demand against a broader and deeper view of inventory and initiate re-orders or markdowns based upon defined triggers.
  • Increase revenue – Maximize fill rates for greater revenue capture via global sourcing and rules-based allocation.
  • Reduce costs – Optimize spend on inventory storage across the network based on order geography profiles.
  • Improve flexibility – Leverage new fulfillment options that reduce costs and inventory levels, without losing control of inventory.

An order hub strategy with distributed order management helps to drive profitable sales growth by successfully managing order fulfillment across the extended supply chain — providing synchronization and control of all internal and external processes tied to order fulfillment. It provides the capability to manage orders from multiple channels and coordinate fulfillment across multiple inventory locations, suppliers, partners and business units. With distributed order management, you can dramatically improve supply chain efficiency, present a single face to customers and adapt to ongoing business evolutions. It makes the increasingly complex fulfillment process transparent and enables your company to harness its full growth potential while driving down supply chain costs.

A flexible, easily configurable process model system for order management and fulfillment automates the manual processes often associated with managing orders in an extended supply chain. Order management addresses the entire order process from order capture to settlement. Each order line easily follows a unique process based upon any order-related attribute or business rule. It automatically creates and tracks any processes that result from, or depend upon, the original customer order. Order management also dramatically reduces order fulfillment costs and significantly improves the quality of customer service.

It resolves the challenges of complex, distributed fulfillment of discrete customer demand, such as quotes, orders, replenish requests, etc. It encompasses all demand-triggered processes across the extended supply chain, such as drop shipping, procure-to-order, delivery and services. Order management enables flexible execution of the customer fulfillment life-cycle from quote and capture to source and fulfill to returns and settlement.

Key Capabilities:

  • Order aggregation and global sourcing – Leverage a multi-channel order repository for single source of information, and globally schedule and source orders based upon key business requirements.
  • Execute beyond the four walls – Model role-based relationships in the supply chain and coordinate fulfillment activity across all external participants.
  • Flexibly control fulfillment activities – Enable customized, line-level order fulfillment based upon any order-related attribute or condition, and adapt to dynamic variations in process.
  • Granular management of complex fulfillment – Automatically creates and tracks any order, resulting from the original customer request and manage all associated dependencies.
  • Receive inventory updates from external partner systems maintaining enterprise-wide inventory and service visibility.

Business Benefits:

  • Reduce Operating Costs – Eliminate manual processes, reduce error rates and exceptions, and efficiently execute distributed order fulfillment.
  • Drive Higher Revenue – Scale to meet growth objectives, and improve ability to reach new customers and offer complementary products and services.
  • Improve Order Fill Rates – Leverage rules-based sourcing, flexible fulfillment and event management to improve performance.
  • Increase Customer Satisfaction – Provide customers with reliable order commitments, increased fulfillment options and real-time order status even across disparate external partner systems.

CSPs should look to an order hub software platform to allow then bring the ‘value’ components of routing logic, carrier/service selection, event and fall-out management, enterprise-wide inventory visibility and billing event control. Additionally order management should maintain the dependencies, state and resolution of all lines of a customer order, from services to delivery to CPE product.

Next time we’ll look at taking value back in the last mile – by owning the software used within the third-party fulfillment provider’s warehouse itself.

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Synchronizing CPE In the Supply Chain (Part 1)

You know,

I first wrote a version of the following way back in 2005 for a very large telecommunications company in the US. If someone would have asked me then if CSPs would still be struggling with this issue in 2012 I would have flippantly dismissed the idea as absurd. I would have been wrong.

Supply Chain Evolution
The evolution of fulfillment and the supply chain is similar in most industries and telecom is no exception. When originally pressed to provide product fulfillment services, organizations usually attempt to handle it internally first. After some time they decide the hassle and effort isn’t worth it and they turn it over to an outside specialist. Finally, hopefully, they realize that certain parts of that service are highly valuable and they move to re-acquire those pieces of the supply chain. Certainly there are some situations where 100% outsourcing may make sense but for the majority of CSPs owning the value components of the supply chain is critical to success.

In-House
The first pass at handling fulfillment of any equipment, including customer premise equipment (CPE), is usually to attempt to handle it completely within the four walls of the organization. There is usually a grass-roots effort to pull some capability together and over time many of these organizations evolve into groups with a considerably amount of efficiency.  At some point though, the internal cost of managing custom software, owning or leasing facilities and managing part-time help get to be a burden on an organization that is focused on selling primarily, not shipping products.

Outsourced
The second evolutionary phase introduces the idea of outsourcing, taking certain pieces of an organizations business and turning those over to an outside ‘expert’ who specializes in that piece of the business. In the case of fulfillment and shipping services these ‘experts’ are many times called Third Party Logistics providers (3PL). In the telecom industry the outsourcing of CPE began to permeate in the early 1990’s about the same time that Caller ID boxes were coming into vogue. Sales of CPE equipment skyrocketed once invoicing for the equipment could be placed directly on the consumer telephone bill (this type of capability is a very strong ‘value’ component of many CSP supply chain partners).

Hybrid
The final phase tends to be re-examining the fulfillment end of the supply chain and looking for opportunities to bring the ‘value’ components of the supply chain back within the organization’s four walls without having to deal with the overhead and management issues that were encountered in the first phase. Technology is the ultimate enabler of this phase.

Commoditize the Supply Chain
The ability to commoditize the last miles of the supply chain is critical to driving out cost and driving up efficiency when working the external providers of fulfillment services in any industry, including telecommunications. By allowing outside integration partners and 3PL providers to control too much of the supply chain and its logical decision points they become ‘required’ components of the corporate supply chain.

Inevitably this is exactly what 3PLs and other supply chain ‘partners’ strive to do; their primary goal is to become so intrinsically embedded within the organizational supply chain that they cannot be extricated without much financial pain and business risk. This allows the 3PL to keep from becoming a price-based commodity partner and adds ‘value’ to their offering allowing them to many times maintain single sourcing and higher rates / margins on fulfillment services. In some cases external 3PLs are embedded in the CSP billing process, a highly valuable piece of the supply chain. The capability to interact with provider billing systems and drive billing events ties them explicitly to the CSP supply chain.

All of the value in the supply chain is within the supply collaboration, fulfillment routing, business logic, billing and fall-out or issue management. The box shipping out the back door is regulated to becoming a commodity offering measured by a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for on-time shipping / delivery, shipping accuracy and cost.

By allowing partners to control the ‘value’ components of the organizational supply chain they take on a role larger than a ‘commodity partner’. Traditionally the three key components necessary for success are people, process and technology. By giving one or more away to a partner we limit our capability for supply chain success.

Inefficient Partners
Compounding the problem with the scenario listed above is that once control of the ‘value’ components of the supply chain is given away, the external partner(s) no longer has any incentive to continue to drive cost out of the supply chain. They are also now in control of the fulfillment end of the supply chain and will look to take margin wherever and whenever they can do so.

Partners often don’t possess the domain knowledge required to deftly handle the kinds of decision logic that a CSP has to manage. They also have sometimes hundreds of other clients that they are trying to become embedded with as well which sometimes divert their focus from the things a provider needs to accomplish.

Partners many times also need to add a large number of ‘client services’ personnel to work with clients like service providers in order to overcome their antiquated and stretched IT system capabilities. Bringing the ‘value’ back into the four walls of the CSP almost guarantees the ability to reduce headcount needed at the 3PL partner at the same time increasing order efficiency and accuracy.

In the next blog we’ll look at how communications providers can begin taking steps to bring the value of the supply chain back into their organization.

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Beyond Catalog-Driven Order Management

Over the past year or two the term ‘catalog-driven’ has been getting a lot of buzz in the telecommunications industry ordering space. The concept is pretty simple – that relationships and dependencies established in a centralized product catalog should be used by the downstream systems to adapt and adjust behavior pertaining to fulfillment. The premise is that once achieved, a provider would see faster time-to-market and lower operational costs because fewer changes need to be made to the downstream systems when adding or modifying products and services.

The idea of a central catalog determining behavior in fulfillment systems is not a new one – in fact it’s been done for well over 10 years in some form or fashion by the large monolithic providers whose preference is to replace every single system within a service provider’s ordering stack. While there are numerous concerns and issues with that approach, the primary one is the transformation cost and lack of ability to leverage any legacy investments. What is a more recent trend though and more easily digested by most CSPs is the focus of having individual best of breed solutions from potentially different vendors also able to take advantage of this same concept of ‘catalog-driven’ order management through adoption of industry standards such as those proposed by the TMForum along with flexible and open architectures.

A successfully complete implementation of a catalog-driven solution should benefit the CSP in a few ways – operationally their costs should be less due to the smaller number of changes that are needed when introducing new products or services and second, time to market, a key performance indicator today should also be reduced for the same reasons. But in the end the capability of ‘catalog-driven’ order management simplifies the same linear process for change that’s been in place for 30+ years in telecommunications. It is still a static procedure made with numerous methodical steps and gates – it does not provide the ability to dynamically respond to real-time events affecting the ordering systems.

What if our ordering systems could react in real time to changing environments? What if they had the ability to change their behavior to adapt to positive or negative influences on the system in real time? With today’s advanced analytics capabilities that is exactly what is becoming possible. There are three key areas we look to when we consider how having an analytical data-mart built into an ordering platform benefits a provider: intelligence ‘on’ the process, intelligence ‘in’ the process and intelligence ‘driving’ the process.

The ability to provide this level of insight and adaptation to the ordering process means the use of an embedded data-mart within the ordering platform – which is not the same as a business intelligence reporting solution pulling from a snapshot of the active selling database – because that process introduces lags and delays in understand what’s really happening at that very moment. This analytical engine allows providers to become proactive instead of reactive.

Intelligence ‘on’ the process is an evolutionary step from the standard dashboard reporting from BI environments that moves it’s source data from delayed reference to something that already happened to real-time access to what is happening now. It enables users to respond to key trends by viewing dashboards and key performance indicators in real-time. This might provide visibility into views of sales by channel, margin, sales team, sales person, store, region, etc. or it might show backorders and CPE fulfillment issues. Real-time access to this information is critical when supporting large scale roll-outs of the latest super smartphone.

Intelligence ‘in’ the process uses the embedded analytics directly in the workflow gives users access to recommendations based on performance trends, allowing them to make better decisions. It might provide a field sales person quoting a particular item with a pop-up showing previously successful quote discount percentages for that product, category or industry or it might provide customer service representatives with changing customer category information, such as “valued customer“ or in indicator of potential churn, so they can take can provide the appropriate form of appeasement.
Where the real magic happens though, is when we use intelligence to ‘drive’ the process. Now we are talking about changing the behavior of the ordering solution (both order configuration and order management) – in real time – on the fly with automated decision-making. The potential benefits could be endless but let’s talk about a couple of easy examples of how this might work. The order configuration system could determine the maximum discount that can be offered to a customer based upon their individual order and recent credit history. Or the fulfillment system could automatically reallocate constrained CPE or handset inventory to a customer based upon priorities, such as customer types, channel, geography, timeframes etc. Or the inventory promising engine supporting all the sales channels, including online, call-center and stores notices that a particular item is in heavy demand (iPhone 5 anyone?) and it also recognizes that there is sufficient inventory available to service the current demand velocity. The order management solution would change it’s processing logic to support scale instead of demand – by processing each sales request first and then reducing inventory after the fact until it reaches a certain minimum threshold or the velocity of sales recedes. This type of behavior ensures that demand scale spikes in non-constrained inventory items won’t slow down system response and impact customer experience.
Analytical ordering platforms are just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential value – but already companies like IBM through it’s Smarter Commerce approach to selling and fulfillment are already offering the type of capability described above, through an embedded datamart designed specifically to work with the ordering solution. Contact IBM today to find out how your organization can move ‘beyond’ catalog-driven order management.
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Are Enterprise App Stores like AT&Ts Going To Thrive?

This week as CES in Las Vegas AT&T unveiled a new, HTML5 driven app development environment to encourage developers to write ‘apps’ that really aren’t.

“It’s essentially a rich set of APIs and tools aimed at furthering the HTML5 appeal as an app development choice,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer at AT&T. “Why are we focusing on HTML5? We think it has the potential to address fragmentation.”

Most current iOS and Android (and others) apps are written in proprietary code and require recompiling and tweaking to switch platforms. Programs written in HTML5 circumvent this because they run in code delivered via the web. Most people don’t remember that these ‘web apps’ if you will were the original offerings on the iPhone.

The bigger question is ‘why’? With millions of apps available across the iOS and Android platforms why would anyone now start developing in the AT&T ‘app’ center as well?

The answer is going to lie in the real value that AT&T can provide – which is not an HTML5 development environment. Cross-platform solutions like PhoneGap have been around for a while now so AT&T is bringing nothing really new to the development front.

What they are bringing new is access to their vast network and the other devices and content participating on it. This could be huge for them and it’s using the model that Apple developed and Google copied, both of which have been wildly successful.

Give access to registered developers ($99 – just like Apple) and turn them loose to come up with creative and profitable ways to extend the value of the AT&T network to it’s customers. Simple.

With the new API offerings, developers will be able to take in-app payments charged directly to a user’s AT&T bill, will be able to control SMS and MMS, find device location, integrate with AT&T’s U-Verse TV, and access unique mobile device capabilities, said David Christopher, AT&T’s chief marketing officer.

This is not a new concept and the idea of telco APIs have been bandied about for years – most often with the discussion of how to make money with them – but this a big deal. It will be interesting to see whether or not other CSPs in North America, Europe and Asia begin offering this as well.

 

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Is your company brave enough to give people what they want – not what they ask for?

A lot has been said about Apple and Steve Jobs over the past few months and frankly for the past 10 years on their meteoric rise together to stardom. A lot has also been said about Apple’s meticulous adherence to design quality and simplicity over features and hardware specs.

However, until I was reading Michael Degusta’s excellent analysis of the orphaned Android phone users I never thought that much about how profound Apple’s approach to the consumer was. Apple has been derided for years with the Mac platform and more recently with the iPhone/iPad platform about not having the latest and greatest whiz-bang hardware features like SD card slots, more memory, larger resolution cameras, etc. In fact, most manufacturers using the Android operating system today actually lead with that line of thinking – a line of thinking that is left over from our brainwashing during the rise of the personal computer at home.

For years in the late 80′s through the late 90′s the primary driver to buy a new PC was to get the latest processor, more memory, better video card, etc. because it made the computer ‘faster’ – and in fact it did. The operating systems were exploding in size and complexity every release and they needed more processing power to keep up and make the experience of using the PC more enjoyable. However, somewhere during that wild ride we were duped into believing that simply having the faster, more powerful features meant we would have a better experience. And this thinking has carried over to the smartphone world as well.

Take the differences between ads for Apple’s iPhone 4 and now the 4s and Google’s recent acquisition Motorola and their Droid series of phones. Motorola is getting better, but they still lead with the physical features of the phone and it’s tech specs (they are a manufacturer of course) where as while Apple does mention dual processor and camera MP size they completely focus their commercials on the user experience and how the consumer benefits from the experience of using the phone. But we can’t really blame Motorola, we showed them how we like to buy PCs and we didn’t require anything different from them.

This inherently is where Steve Jobs and Apple got it right – against all conventional wisdom. Jobs and team essentially decided to give us what we wanted – not what we asked for. What does that mean? It means we asked for features and specs, but what we really wanted was a fantastic experience using our phones – do I really care what speed my processor is or how much memory I have if I can do what I want to do as fast as I want to do it? Really?

Apple has been demonized by Google indirectly through the Android community along with most of the same user base that would have demonized Microsoft and Windows while using various flavors of UNIX for a lack of open-ness in the past but in reality the walled garden ecosystem they have created between software and hardware for the iPhone has yielded an amazing user experience – one that has been difficult to replicate for Android manufacturers and surely led Google to recognize that as well – hence the acquisition of Motorola. It made iOS5 available to nearly every active iPhone on the plant available on the initial release date. And this kind of thinking has propelled Apple from being on the brink of extinction in 1997 to the most valuable company in the world in mid-2011.

Do you really want to grow your business? If you do then put your customers at the center of everything you do and give them what they want, not what they ask for.

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